[Disclaimer: There characters herein belong to Marvel Comics.] Thief of Waves
By LN Tora
Remy Lebeau gazed out across the lake. Normally, he would take his thoughts to the roof, but after finding Warren and Betsy up there the previous morning, he had a strange sense that his thoughts would no longer be safe up there. A small voice inside him screamed at the intrusion, but he silenced it quickly. Still, he could not help but feel a bizarre and somewhat terrifying sense of violation at the invasion of his private spot.
He sniffed at the last thought. Who was he to complain about space? At least he had people to intrude upon his, which is more than he could say before becoming X-Men.
The crimson irises took on a far away look as he thought briefly about his life before the X-Men. Exiled from the Thieves Guild, Now wasn't dat a kick in de head. and forced to become a free roaming thief for hire. To top it all off, he had the unfortunate luck of running into Sinister.
Gambit shivered, pulling his duster around him. He didn't want to think about what went down between him and 'le visage blanc du diable'. He would be content to forget everything that happened. But Remy was afraid it would happen again if he did forget. So he kept the memory locked down, hidden away where it wouldn't hurt him. Away from prying eyes who might stumble across it.
You're actin' like a fool. Gambit chastised himself for the uncontrollable rush of mistrust and insecurity he experienced. He knew he had no reason to feel the way he did. But all things considered, he at least knew why he felt like that.
Mebbe I should talk t' Stormy. The thought popped into his head, and Gambit brushed it away immediately. He loved Ororo deeply, but was afraid of what her reaction would be if she ever learned the truth between him and Sinister. Losing the respect of his Stormy would hurt worse than anything Sinister could do to him.
Y' keep thinkin' like dis and Jean's gonna know somethin' is up. Even though his own shields were quite formidable, Gambit lived in constant fear of his emotions leaking out for any two bit mutant telepath to see. It was this same fear that strengthened his shields, making it impossible for anyone to track him telepathically. He didn't care how they worked, so long as they worked. Unfortunately, what kept other people out sometimes locked him in. Occasionally Remy would find himself trapped inside his own mind with no chance of escape. Though it occurred rarely enough, he still hated it just the same. But there was little he could do except weather it out and pray the spell would pass soon.
Yawning, Remy turned and headed back towards the mansion. He knew that if he kept thinking like this he would have another psychic, psychotic episode. Y' haven't had one since y' joined de X-Men. Best if y' keep it dat way, f' everyone's sake. He knew he didn't have the emotional strength to deal with his mental chaos tonight. Your problem is dat y' t'ink too much as it is. Dat gives y' half your troubles right dere. Ah well, better get t' bed before Stormy comes searchin' f' me. Remy smiled at the last thought. Ever since Rogue decided to end their relationship What relationship? the Windrider had become quite protective and caring of the Cajun. Remy knew she was worried about him and he wished he could tell her that he was okay, but he didn't think he'd be able to pull off that big of a lie. So instead he let her fuss over him, a small part actually enjoying the attention in some brotherly kind of way. It was either that or wallow in his misery, thinking about his life and where it was along with where it was going.
There y' go again. One of dese days you're goin' t' watch what y' start thinkin' about. Resolving not to give in to temptation, Remy walked into the mansion, briefly wondering who he could convince to join him for a round of poker.
Remy turned over in his bed for the fifteenth time that night. Lying on his side, he raised his head and glared blearily at the clock on the nightstand. It read 1:15 AM.
Merde. At dis rate, I won't last ten minutes in de Danger Room. He wondered if he could persuade Storm to let him off the hook with the morning practice session. Groaning, Remy flopped on his back. His eyes stared at the ceiling, his mind wandering aimlessly. He fixed on an image of Rogue and assumed that was the cause of his insomnia. What's wrong wit' y' anyway? It's not de first time de femme ends it between y'. So mebbe she mean it dis time, so what? Y' get over it like y' always do, eh? He attempted to talk himself back to sleep. After fifteen minutes of rationalizing, he finally gave up and headed for the kitchen. If he were lucky, that six-pack he saw earlier was still in there. One way or another he was going to get some sleep.
Don't know why I'm all bent out o' shape behind de girl anyway. Not like I can' find anot'er. What de...? Damn. Remy noticed an uncharacteristic tremor in his hands. He took a deep breath to try and calm himself. What's wrong wit' y' tonight Lebeau? Gambit shuffled towards the kitchen. His thoughts were no less chaotic now than they were a few hours ago. Only when he passed by a desktop calendar sitting on a table did he realize why his mind churned with such intense turmoil.
It can' be, it just can' be... He grabbed the calendar and glanced at the date. His eyes confirmed it. Today was the day that Sinister had him in his lab. The day that...
No! I don' want t' think 'bout dat! No! Remy dropped the calendar and ran back to his room, all thoughts of attacking the fridge forgotten in a moment of pure terror. He slammed his door, fumbling with the lock before diving for the bed. Remy buried himself beneath the covers as he found himself trapped inside the hideous memories of his mind.
Hands. He could see them, reaching out toward him. He tried to get away, but was strapped down on some kind of table. He couldn't move. He thrashed uselessly against the restraints. A black diamond flashed off in the background.
*Le bon Dieu aider moi.* He knew it was hopeless to pray. If God cared, he wouldn't be here in the first place. No, there would be no help for him. No help, and no hope either.
The hands came closer. He saw the black diamond once more. Then his mind cried out as his world became an ocean of pain. Formless. Turbulent. Horrifying. Beautiful. It flowed around him. It flowed through him. He felt himself slipping away, his mind losing its grip with reality. With undercurrents of shame and utter humiliation, he gave himself over. He became the pain, as it became him. Soon there was no ~him~ and there was no ~pain~. Only a formless entity remain...
Remy bolted upright in his bed. His heart threatened to beat right out of his chest. He gasped for air, his eyes wide with fear. He sat frozen in terror as his ears were assaulted by sounds rendered nearly inhuman from their torment.
"OH GOD! STOP IT! STOP!"
With sickening clarity, Remy knew who was screaming. He had no doubt that every telepath in a thousand-mile radius were probably shrieking with the same agonizing intensity. Guilt, shame, and nausea battled for dominance inside his body and soul. With great effort, he rose from his bed to confront the chaos he had unwillingly created.
As Remy entered the living room, he could see Hank and Ororo tending to the Professor while Scott and Bobby were busy helping Jean. He could hear Betsy's voice from somewhere in the kitchen. A groan of despair escaped his lips, catching the attentions of Storm.
"Remy! We need your help. Something has happened to..."
"I know," his voice barely carried to the Windrider's ears. But Scott heard him clearly. He paused in trying to control his frantic wife and turned to stare at the Cajun.
"What do you mean you know? What's going on here Gambit?"
Remy sank slowly to the floor, unable to support himself. He didn't acknowledge Cyclops. Instead, he closed his eyes, concentrating on the pain he had released into the astral plane. A noise sounding close to a sob passed his lips as Remy began to draw the pain back into his being. Soon, he felt himself once again engulfed in a sea of unbearable agony. He gritted his teeth as he fought for control against the tide. Remy struggled to keep his sense of self as he redirected the pain away from the astral plain and back to himself. Blood trickled from his lip where his teeth had bit into the flesh. His hands clenched into tight fist. His body shuddered with the effort it took to hold onto his mind.
He couldn't answer; the risk was too great. He focused solely on the pain. Remy felt it gradually leave the astral plain and flow back into the deep recesses of his self. With a final tremor, he lurched forward, falling to the floor in a heap.
Remy's body felt cold, his muscles unresponsive. A dull roar filled his ears, and he gave in to the oncoming darkness.
Tired red eyes fluttered open and abruptly snapped shut. The light was too bright to keep them open for long. Remy moaned softly, trying to get his bearings.
"He's waking up."
He recognized the voice. Beast? Behind closed lids, he sensed the light dimming. He took a tentative whiff, his nose registering the all too familiar smell of antiseptics in the air. I must be in de lab. A hand reached out, folding itself around his own.
"Remy? Can you hear me?"
Gambit tried opening his eyes again. He found a pair of blue cat-like eyes staring back, concern filling their depths. He tried to speak, but a finger sealed his lips.
"Don't try to talk. Save your strength. You've been unconscious for a long time."
How long? He didn't get a chance to ask as Hank entered his field of vision. Storm turned and glanced hopefully at the blue furred doctor.
"Will he be alright Henry?"
"I need to check his vitals, make sure he isn't suffering from any post trauma caused by this unexpected situation. However, in my own humble opinion, I think Gambit is physically in the clear. His body will need time to recuperate, of course."
"Of course." Storm looked back at him, smiling in relief. "Just rest for now Remy. We can talk when you've recovered."
Gambit gazed at her, unaware of the tear falling down his cheek. Storm's eyes widened in surprise. Even in his most vulnerable moments, Gambit never allowed anyone to see him so upset. Fear blossomed inside the Windrider as she wondered what was happening to her dear friend. Swallowing, she leaned closer to brush the tear away.
"Everything will be fine Remy, just sleep now."
He wants to believe her, but he knows the truth. Remy tried to tell her what happened. He wanted to say he was sorry, but his voice wasn't listening. Damn, must be a sedative. Sleep hugged him, and he surrendered willingly. Storm swept a lock of hair out if his eyes. He seemed almost peaceful to her, the hurt and fear temporarily absent from his face. With a sigh, Storm rose and went to join the others in the war room.
"Professor, what happened? I checked Cerebro; it was lit across the board. Every telepath for miles experienced feelings of extreme pain and trauma. We're still getting incoming calls from all over the area."
Professor Xavier regarded his student carefully. Though sufficiently recovered from the psionic wave in the astral plain, he was still weak from the experience. He himself only had the barest idea of what had happened, and he was not sure how much to reveal to the others without Gambit's permission. He chose his words with care.
"The astral plain was bombarded with what I can only describe as a psychic wave. I do not know the exact cause of the wave, but I do know that it was composed of purely of pain."
Storm turned to the Professor, her blue eyes filled with concern for what happened as well as for her friend. "What type of pain Professor?"
Xavier sighed, resisting the impulse to rub his temples. He could feel a headache coming on, yet was grateful for it considering the alternative could have been much worse. "All types of pain. Pain on an emotional, physical, mental, and psychic level. The simplest way to describe it would be to say that it felt like every nerve that registers pain was suddenly turned 'on'. While this rarely occurs in the physical world, it can happen in the psionic plane. Though for such an event to transpire would require great power, more than I myself could possibly begin to imagine."
Scott's mind whirled. That anyone could have so much power as to upset the entire psychic plane worried him greatly. He saw the suffering in the eyes of his wife and his mentor. To think that a person would willingly want to cause so much torment could only mean this person was a threat. He looked to the Professor, ready to do whatever was necessary to neutralize the danger.
"Can you trace the source of the wave Professor?" Scott went into automatic leader mode, his mind already searching through possible members to take with him. Xavier gazed at him and shook his head.
"A mission won't be necessary Scott."
Scott regarded his teacher and wondered briefly if the wave had caused more damage than they'd first suspected. He immediately pushed the thought out of his mind, afraid the Professor might pick it up and think he was questioning the older man's authority. "Why not?"
"Because he isn't a threat, at least not directly. I believe that the wave was unintentional, though I hope he will see the danger of his power and allow us to help him. It's rather remarkable that he was able to control it for so long without any outside influence."
Now Storm was curious. "What do you mean Professor? Do you know who caused this wave?"
Xavier regarded his students carefully. He was well aware of the strained relationships between Gambit and many of the other X-Men, and was sure this new information would not help matters in the least. Yet, as much as he wanted to protect the young man, he was also aware for the need to be ready in case the wave returned. The burden weighed heavily on his shoulders as Professor Xavier spoke.
"Yes Storm. I know who caused the wave."
A snikt from the side told everyone that Logan had just 'popped' his claws. "So tell us where ta find him and we'll make sure he don't make any more a those unintentional waves."
"I'm afraid it's not that easy. Besides, the X-Men have sworn to help mutants learn to control their powers. This is no different." Xavier floated to the comlink and called down to the infirmary. "Hank? Can you give me a report on Remy's condition?"
Hanks voice sounded tired, "He is asleep for the moment. Whether or not he will remain in said state is unknown for the time being. Given his unusual rest pattern for the last three hours, I would dare to hazard a guess and say that he will come too somewhat, at which time I will be given the wretched and rather dismal task of having to sedate him yet again."
Xavier felt the concern in the room peak. For all their mistrust of the Cajun, it warmed him to know that they cared enough to worry about him. "What do you mean Hank?"
A sigh echoed from the com, "Gambit has awaken three times since Storm's departure. In each case he became severely agitated to the point where I feared he would physically harm himself if left to his own vices. I later became aware that his metal state was in even worse condition. I had no choice but to sedate him to ensure his well being. I can not imagine what would happen if I allow him to awaken at this point."
Now Scott became interested. "Can you be more specific Beast?"
"Of course. Each time Gambit regained consciousness he was highly disoriented. To compound the situation, he seemed unfamiliar with his surroundings which in turned led him to believe he was being held prisoner. This had the rather undesirable effect of causing his kinetic powers to lash onto whatever matter was within range and charge it to maximum force. It is really quite fascinating when you consider the fact that he apparently charged the items without having to touch them."
Now Warren spoke up. "Are you saying he charged stuff with his mind?" The mistrust echoed in every syllable. "Would that have caused this whole mess?"
"Not at all, my winged friend. To paraphrase my earlier statement, he sent a charge out through the air, much like a sound or light wave. The charge traveled until it met with solid matter, or simply dissipated after a certain point. Once the charge came in contact with an object, the results were quite predictable, given our shared experience with Gambit's powers."
Warren looked as if he had more to say, but a sudden glare from Jean silenced him. Jean had listened intently to the conversation. She too was partially aware of what had happened on the astral plane and was worried about Remy. She herself didn't feel Gambit was directly responsible. Jean guessed that Gambit didn't realize what he was doing, and he had fixed it as soon as he sensed what had happened. Jean was afraid of what absorbing all that energy would do to him, and was glad the Professor called Hank to check on him. The fact that Gambit had been responsible for the psychic wave wouldn't help his relationship with the others. Jean made a silent vow to help Remy no matter what.
"How is he at the moment Hank?"
"For now he is stable. I think it would be beneficial if Storm or perhaps even Jean were here when he awakens."
The Professor nodded and glanced towards the two X-Men in question. The obvious choice was Storm, but Jean spoke up first.
"I'll go. I wanted to ask Hank a few questions anyway."
Scott opened his mouth to protest. Jean sent a mental message that shut him up instantly. He had the decency to look chagrined as she got up to go the med lab. Once Jean was gone, Cyclops looked back at the Professor. Xavier spoke to the com.
"Please keep me posted on Gambit's condition Hank."
"Certainly Professor. Signing off."
Bobby, who had been keeping his feelings to himself, decided he couldn't wait anymore. On one hand, he wasn't sure he trusted Gambit. On the other, a team mate was lying up in the infirmary, and no one knew what the hell was going on. They could sit and discuss this if they want to, but I want some answers.
"Give it to us straight Professor. Did Gambit have something to do with this wave thingy."
Xavier sighed. He had wanted to break it to the group gently and minimize on the damage. Bobby's outburst just canceled his plans. With a heavy heart he looked at his students.
"Yes, and no. Gambit did cause the wave..."
That was all he could manage before the room exploded in a rage of accusations and tempers.
"I knew he shouldn't be trusted!" "Why would he want to do this?" "When I get my hands on him." "But he did fix it! Why would he do that if he wanted to hurt anyone?" "We should have got rid of him when we had the chance." "That's big talk comin' from you." "Why you..."
A crash of thunder echoed throughout the estate. All eyes turned to the only X-Man capable of creating such a disturbance. Ororo Monroe glared out at her team mates. Her eyes sparked with anger and righteous indignation. She stood up, an Egyptian goddess in all her fury. Several members backed away as far as possible.
"How dare you! And you call yourselves X-Men! It is obvious to any who would bother to use the senses the goddess has given them that Remy did not intend to harm anyone. When he came out of his room, I could see the sadness in his eyes as he realized what he had done. And if you weren't so busy trying to condemn the man, you would remember that he healed the astral plane at great cost to his own self. I will not tolerate any of you sentencing him without knowing the complete story." Her eyes narrowed, and a streak of lightning flashed outside the window. "Now all of you will be quiet and let the Professor continue. And if I hear one more outburst concerning Remy's loyalties, that person will answer to me. Is that understood?"
Storm turned away from the group and faced Xavier. "I believe you had more to say Professor."
"Indeed." Xavier hid a smile as several of the X-Men stared at the Windrider with a new level of respect and justifiable fear. While she often kept her emotions under beautiful control, Storm felt no compunction about using her elemental powers to get her point across. Especially when that point was in defense of a friend. Xavier was more than grateful to Ororo for bringing a semblance of order back to the meeting. He nodded his thanks and addressed the group.
"Storm is right. I believe that the wave was accidental and involuntary."
"Quite. From what I was able the read from both the wave and from Gambit, he's kept this wave tightly sealed inside himself. To be able to do that takes great mental and physical control."
"Like sealing someone up in the astral plane?" Bobby asked. The thought of Gambit trying to hold someone like the Shadow King at bay gave Bobby the chills. Though he would never admit, not even to himself, that it was out of fear for the Cajun more so than anything else.
"Close. Gambit's case is different due to the fact that what he sealed up isn't a separate entity, like the Shadow King. He's been holding back a force of energy that in many ways is aligned with the astral plane itself."
This answer didn't not appease Bobby, who jumped at the sound of Logan sharpening his claws thoughtfully. "So you're sayin' that Gumbo's been holdin' back a piece a the ocean."
"It's more complicated than that. This wave was created outside the plane. Whoever engineered this wave needed an avatar to introduce it to the rest of the plane."
"And that avatar was Gambit?" asked Psylocke.
"Apparently so. Since then, Gambit has been unconsciously holding the wave inside himself, away from the astral plane. That fact that it took this long for his shields to crack indicates an enormous amount of power on his part. No doubt something upset him greatly for this to occur. Even as he pulled the wave back I could feel his regret at allowing this to happen. To have to live in such constant fear must be terrible for him."
Bobby bit his lip. He was worried and scared, wondering what could have upset Gambit to make him crack. Warren, however, remained unconvinced of Gambit's innocence. "So then why didn't he tell us? I'm sure either you or Jean could have helped him if he had asked."
Scott agreed, though for different reasons. "This wave obviously poses a danger to every telepath and telempath on the planet. He should have told us so we could make sure something like this wouldn't happen."
A low growl caught everyone's attention. "Did it ever occur to ya that maybe there's a reason why he didn't want ta talk about it?"
Cyclops appeared stunned. "What do you mean? This wave is doing more harm than good. He lost control of it once and look what it did. When he pulled it back, it knocked him out. I don't see any reason why he wanted to keep something so painful to himself."
"That's because you can't see what's staring you in the face most the time." This outburst came from Bobby. It surprised everyone, including Drake himself. A dull heat crept on Scott's face. He planned a retort, but Xavier intervened.
"What Logan and Robert are saying, and is something I agree with, is the way that the wave was introduced inside Remy."
Xavier's hover chair floated to a nearby window, where he gazed out across the expanse of the school grounds. He drew strength from the tranquility of the moment, and faced his students once more.
"It is only a theory at this point, as I need more information from Gambit himself. But I think that the wave was created inside him."
Xavier looked around the room as his words slowly sank in. "The source of the wave may very well be Gambit himself."
Jean walked into the lab just as Hank finished recording Gambit's vital signs.
"Hello Hank, how is he?"
"Asleep for the moment. But I believe he will be waking up soon. I must admit, I was expecting Storm to be the one to greet our nervous friend when he wakes up."
Jean smiled, "I think a lot of people thought that, but it's better if she stays since she can keep everyone under control."
Hank's lip twitched as he tried to suppress a grin. "Yes, I noticed the thunderstorm a few minutes ago."
"Knowing everyone like I do, it was probably very necessary."
"I agree. It was probably quite effective." Hank gathered his papers together and headed for the door. "Now that you are here, I feel secure enough to go and record my findings for prosperity. Should you need any assistance, do not hesitate to inquire after me."
"Thanks Hank, I'll be fine." She waited until Hank left, then walked over to Remy's bed. She sat down in a chair next to it, thoughtfully supplied by the blue doctor. Alone and away from the ever watchful eyes of her husband, Jean took an appreciative look at Remy while he slept. He was indeed a handsome man, almost to the point of being beautiful. She reached over and laid a hand on one of his, marveling at the quiet strength that emanated from him even now. She allowed her mind to wander, her thoughts returning again and again to this enigmatic man that had fallen into their lives.
A small whimper interrupted her musings. Jean reached out with her mind, ignoring the approaching headache, and call out to Gambit.
For a while the was no response. She was about to give up when a mental whisper crept into her mind.
~Remy? It's Jean. Can you hear me?~
~Yes Remy. Do you remember me? Do you know who I am?
~t'ink so...yeah...know y'...je suis désolé~
The sadness radiating from within him brought tears to Jean's eyes. She tried to dispel it by projecting calm reassurances to him.
~It's okay Remy. You're in the med lab. You were brought here after you stopped the wave.~
Jean bit her lip and wondered how much she should reveal when the Professor spoke to her.
~Not yet Jean. He's still blaming himself as it is. Wait until he's recovered first. Then maybe we can talk to him.~
Jean watched as Gambit slowly came to. Using her telekinesis she dimmed the lights in the room as his eyes fluttered open once more. He stared at the ceiling for a bit. After adjusting his eyes to the light, he focused his vision on Jean. She smiled warmly, hoping to put him at ease.
Remy sighed as he accustomed himself to his surroundings. He returned the greeting with some measure of politeness. "'Allo Jean."
Remy attempted to sit up and Jean helped him, placing a couple of pillows behind his back to prop him up on. He leaned against them with a sigh and waited.
"How are you feeling?"
Remy considered how to answer this, and opted for the truth. "Tired, beat, worn out, an' whatever other thing's y' can come up wit'." He fixed his eyes directly on Jean's and asked, "How are y'?"
"I'm fine. And so are the Professor and Betsy in case you're wondering. Right now we're worried about you."
Gambit snorted. "Save your worry f' someone who needs it chere. I'll be fine."
Jean didn't have to be a telepath to catch the true meaning to Gambit's statement. Save it for someone who deserves it is what you want to say, isn't it? When will you accept the fact that you deserve our concern as much as anyone? She patted his hand gently. "I don't know if you need it or not, but you have it just the same. You are a part of this team and this family, and we will always worry about you."
Gambit turned his head, unwilling to accept what Jean tried to offer him. She leaned forward and cupped his face in her hands, forcing him to look at her.
"I know how bad you feel about what happened. You're projecting strong feelings of guilt, sadness, and shame. But it wasn't your fault. Please Remy, let us help you."
Gambit sat up. He took Jean's hands away from his face and covered them with his own. He avoided her eyes, knowing what he would see in them. He bowed his head as the words fell in hushed tones from his lips.
"It means a lot t' Remy dat some of y' want t' help me. But de fact is y' can'. No one can, not without risking' dere own life. I won't let y' or anybody else do dat. I'm sorry dat I let dis ting loose, it won' 'apnea again. Just let me take care o' it, an' keep de rest of y' safe okay?" He gazed at her now, wearing one of his famous heart-stopping smiles. "Besides, ol' Gambit handle things fine so far. He'll do okay again, you'll see."
Jean wasn't sure what to think. While she was worried about the wave being released back into the astral plane, it was also true that Gambit had managed to pull it back in. Not to mention the fact that he had controlled it without their knowledge prior to this. She sighed, knowing that she couldn't argue with him.
"You're right, you have been controlling it. When I think about it, you've handled it well since no telepath even detected it before today. I think the Professor will still want to talk to you about though."
"Not if y' tell him dat I'm okay. I was just stressed, with Rogue an' Joseph an' all that. Dat was just a one time thin'. Y' said it yourself, none of de otter telepathy even knew 'bout it. Je vais bien, tout va bien. Y' tell de Proof dat I can handle, he'll listen to y'."
Jean nodded. "I'll tell him. Do you want to rest for awhile?"
"Only if I can do it in my own room. Where's Beast when y' want t' get out o' here?"
"I'll send him in. Just rest, okay?"
"Très bien." Gambit watched as Jean left. He had his charm powers on full force so Jean would leave him alone. He rested back against the pillows and wondered how many of the others he would have to convince. His eyes drooped, and Remy slipped quietly back into a fitful slumber.
Sinister appraised at his newest creation. Perfection in all its scientific glory. He ran his hand over his experiment's face. Though untested, there was no reason why it wouldn't work. He'd proven the thesis. There were no variables or scenarios that he didn't have a contingency plan for. And the subject itself was a remarkable find. All the pieces fell into place. Now he simply had to add the final component.
The subject squirmed away from his touch. Fear emitted from every facet of it's being. Sinister allowed himself a smile. If his creation had an inkling of the raw power it possessed, it would never bother with the emotion of fear again.
Sinister could feel the presence of his other minions as they entered the room. He ignored them for the moment and concentrated on the subject before him. His creation...no...his ~child~. He allowed himself one last glance, then turned to his subordinates. They were crude in his mind. They held all the elegance of a rock. But even a rock has its uses. He addressed them now, his voice echoing through the vastness of the lab.
"You remember your orders? I don't want any permanent damage done. If I find that any of you have injured or damaged this in anyway, you will find that there are worse things than death. Do I make myself clear."
The Marauders all nodded. They remember what had happened to Scrambler when he said what he would do to Sinister's creation if given a chance. It took over a month for him to recover. Though they were restricted in what they could do, they still planned on enjoying themselves. Sinister stepped away from table and removed himself.
The Marauders immediately surrounded it. The crying started before Sinister settled himself in the observation room. He watched dispassionately as the Marauders did as they pleased. As long as they didn't cause permanent harm or damage, he would allow this to continue. He glanced at the time, and calculated three hours for the session. He would wait, for patience went hand in hand with his aspirations.
The screams began...
Gambit woke up just as Beast walked into the med-lab. He willed himself to calm down, knowing the doctor would only release him if he appeared normal. He glanced up at Hank, his charm going into overdrive.
"You're here t' let me go, non?"
Hank shook his head. There were some things even charm couldn't work on. "Not until I take your vital signs again. You woke up severely distressed on more than one occasion. I do not wish to take a chance with you current stability by removing you prematurely. Such a move may cause over stimulation of your seemingly unused empathic abilities, which would result in possibly detrimental and perhaps ruinous effects on both your physical and mental well being."
For all that Remy felt proficient in more than one language, he had yet to understand what he called 'Beast speak'.
"Can you try saying that in English?"
"I thought I just did."
Remy bit back a groan and tried another bid for freedom. "I feel fine Hank. I know where I am, and I'm not trying to hurt myself or anything. I just want to sleep in my own room, that's all." He reached down inside himself and called on every ounce of charm he had. He didn't stop until he felt Hank give in.
"If your vitals signs read green, then I suppose there would be no harm in allowing you to recover in the privacy of your own humble dwellings."
"Merci Beast." Remy watched patiently as Hank went over the monitors, alternately checking and scribbling on his clipboard. After a few minutes, the doctor turned back to Remy.
"For the most part, you appear to be well. I am concerned with the rapid heartbeat you had a few moments ago."
Remy bit down on a groan. He couldn't risk telling Hank the truth. He would never let him go if he knew about the nightmare. Then a thought entered his head, and Remy silently thanked Jean for giving him an alibi.
"Jean was in 'ere earlier. Mebbe I just reacted t' being so close to a beautiful lady, no?"
Hank chuckled. "I don't think it would be wise to react so strongly. I doubt our fearless leader would be very appreciative of that." Hank checked the monitors again and sighed. "Alright, you are free to go, under restriction of course."
"O' course." Remy lost no time in getting out of bed. He reached for his clothes and began putting them on. A furred hand on his elbow stopped him in the middle of buttoning his shirt.
"It would behoove you to listen to the restrictions before you take your leave." The tone in his voice indicated that there would be no arguing the subject. Remy nodded and sat on the edge of the bed as Hank began.
"First, I would very much prefer if you were to wait until someone can escort you back to your room. Second, you are hereby confined to your bed until I feel your condition warrants otherwise. Third, if you feel even the slightest discomfort, you will use the comlink and notify me immediately. Is that understood?"
Hank glared at him. "I'm serious Remy. If you don't think you can handle it, I will have to insist you remain here."
Remy looked up, his eyes suddenly vacant. "I can handle it. Would y' see if Stormy can walk me t' my room den?"
Beast was puzzled. Remy was known to put up a fight regarding Hank's advice. More than once Hank would come into his lab after Gambit had been brought in only to find the Cajun had sneaked out as soon as his back had turned. But now Remy had capitulated without so much a one flippant remark. It troubled Hank, but he couldn't say why. He decided that discretion would be for the best and kept his misgivings to himself.
"Of course Remy. You can finish changing while I call her if you want."
Remy nodded and began to slip back into his clothing. He was tired of having to convince everyone he was okay. All he wanted now was to go to bed and try to forget what happened. He didn't see Hank's look of worry as the furry doctor went to call on his teammate.
"Sir, I think you should see this."
Sinister leaned back in his chair and glared down at the timid man before him. He was but one of many lowly scientists he employed in his research. They mainly handled the drudgework, as Sinister trusted no one with his actual research. He vaguely remembered placing the one cowering before him in charge of monitoring any unusual activity regarding the psychic plane. For this man to brave an audience with him must mean that he had come across something important. At least it had better be important...
"What is it?"
"The computers picked up a massive energy fluctuation in the psionic plane. Apparently, it affected several telepaths for miles."
"And you felt this significant because..."
The scientist gulped. He didn't want to be here, but was afraid of what would happen if Sinister caught him and he didn't report it. He only hoped that the readings were as important as they appeared. "Well, I crossed referenced the energy signature with all known telepaths. No matches were found. Then I decided to check it against your past archives. This is the result."
The scientist walked forward and handed a file over to Sinister. Sinister flicked through the file briefly, his face impassive. After a few minutes, Sinister seemed to remember the man waiting nervously in front of him. With a flick of his hand, Sinister dismissed him. The scientist scampered out, grateful to leave. Sinister reread the file. His finest creation, his greatest mistake, right before his eyes. Sinister did not hope, as he had lost his emotions a long time ago. Yet he could not deny a certain swell of satisfaction at having found his wayward 'child' once more. Second chances did not come often, and Sinister knew better than to let this chance slip by. He rose, his cape sweeping the floor. Sinister's mind immediately began to formulate a plan as he went to gather his minions.
It was a few hours later that Remy was finally able to sleep in his own bed. Hank had insisted on one more round of test before releasing him to Storm. Storm took him to his room without questioning him once. Remy was grateful, but knew it probably wouldn't last. She told him she would be back to check on him later. She hugged the Cajun briefly and departed. Remy hoped it would be much later when she came back. He cared deeply for Ororo, but he was tired and wanted nothing more than to go to sleep for at least a couple of days. With a sigh, Remy changed his clothes and collapsed on his bed. He was tired, so much that he couldn't fall asleep right away. He passed the time by remembering all his more noteworthy thefts and conquest. His eyelids drooped about halfway through the list.
Remy was nearly asleep two hours later when a gentle knock came from his door. Slowly he pulled himself from the abyss and called out hoarsely.
"Who is it?"
"It is I Remy. May I come in?"
Remy reached over and turned on a lamp next to his bed. His eyes blinked several times as he adjusted to the level of light flooding his senses. Remy could feel Storm waiting patiently outside his door. With a groan of effort, he sat up and called out to her.
"Come on in Stormy."
The door opened. "I have told you not to call me that." Ororo Monroe strode gently into the room. Her hair flowed in soft white tendrils from her face. She wore a long silk gown that matched her eyes. The dress whispered gracefully around her form. Concern flowed around her a surely as the silk of her gown. Storm walked over and sat carefully on the edge of Remy's bed. She rested a hand on one of his as she gazed into her friend's scarlet eyes.
"How are you feeling Remy?"
Remy looked at the Windrider for a second. A part of him wanted to tell her the truth about what had happened. He wanted to tell her what Sinister did to him. Mostly, he wanted to know that everything would be okay again. This is what he wanted, and what he couldn't have. Remy couldn't risk it. There was too much danger involved. And he didn't want to run the chance of losing the first real friend he ever truly had. So he kept it all inside, giving Storm an answer he hoped would appease her.
"I'm fine Stormy. Just a little tired. I'll get some rest an' be alright tomorrow."
"That is good to hear. Hank was on his way to check on you." She paused as Remy groaned in response. "Do not worry. I told him that I wanted to visit you anyway. I think he will be pleased to know that you are actually resting for once, instead of sneaking out for your version of recuperation."
Remy smiled. It was common knowledge that he often left the mansion when he was on sick leave to engage in his own brand of 'healing'. "Mebbe I save dat f' later Stormy. Even Gambit knows when he's 'ad enough f' one night."
"Are you sure you're okay my friend?" The concern she felt showed clearly on her face and in her voice. Remy sighed.
"Like I said, I'm just tired. I just need t' sleep dats all." Remy leaned back against the headboard of his bed. "What 'bout y'? What brings y' out at dis time o' night, eh Stormy."
"Do not call me...never mind. I came because I'm worried about you my friend. I know you Gambit. You would gladly keep all of this lock inside if given half a chance. I'm not going to give you that chance Remy. I want to know what hurts you so much."
Remy winced. The fact that Storm could read him so easily must mean he was slipping. He tried to speak, hoping to get her off his back. Storm reached over and caught Remy's face in her hands, her expression gentle.
"For what it's worth, my fellow thief, I'm the only one who can see that you're still in pain. You may have been able to fool Jean, but I won't allow you to hide from me. Talk to me Remy. I only want to help you."
Remy turned away from Storm's touch. "Y' can't help me Stormy. No one can help me. It's my business, my problem, an' I'll deal wit' it."
"Please Stormy, it has to be like this. I don't want to hurt anyone. That's why I can't let anyone help me. It just the way it is."
Red eyes stared at electric blue, emotions bleeding out from them. A single tear made it's way down Remy's face. Storm was stricken at the pain her friend was suffering. She wiped the tear away as Remy pleaded with her once more.
"I know I ain't de most trusting person around, but y' have t' trust me now. I don't want t' see anyone hurt. Dat's why I have t' handle dis by myself. Please Stormy, y' 'ave t' believe dat I don' want t' see people hurt. I don't know what I'd do if de rest o' de team got hurt trying t' help me. Jean, Prof', Beast, y', especially y'. Just let me deal wit' dis so everyone can stay safe, okay?"
Compassion radiated from Storm like a light through a mist. She pulled Remy into a hug tight enough to make him gasp.
"It's okay Remy. No one will force you. I just don't want you to feel like you have to keep this to yourself. We are more than a team, we are a family. And you are as much a part of this family as anyone. Don't you know that when you hurt, I hurt too?"
Remy wrapped his arms around the Windrider and returned the hug. "I know Stormy. I don't like y' t' hurt. Not when I know I'm de reason you're hurting."
"That's not what I mean Remy, " she said. "It hurts to think that you can't come to one of us for help. I know you'd never hurt me. You've always helped me when I needed it. I just want you to know that I am here for you. I don't want you to keep this to yourself if you don't have to."
A grin touched his lips as Remy pulled away. "I know dat too Stormy. Gambit knows when his friends got his back f' him." He sighed as his face grew serious once more. "It's just too dangerous right now. Just let me deal with my mess. When I t'ink it's safe, I'll call y' okay?"
Storm sighed in submission. "You'll protect us even if it's the death of you, won't you my friend?"
Remy smiled again. "Now now Stormy, y' should know better dan dat. Heaven too boring f' Gambit, an' de Devil already kicked him out o' hell f' tryin' t' take over."
Her laughter trickled like running water. "Very well then." Storm stood up, placing a quick kiss of affection on Remy's cheek. She was one of the few people who could get away with it, and she relished the special bond it signified. "I'll let Henry know that you are indeed resting. I'm sure that will please him to no end. I'll be back in the morning. Good night my friend, sleep well."
"Bonne nuit Stormy." Remy watched as the Windrider glided out of his room. He heaved a sigh filled with relief and exhaustion. He'd used his charm powers three times today, pushing them to the limits. It was starting to get to him. He hoped no one else would check on him tonight. He reached back and turned off the lamp before settling down into the blankets for the night.
Cold eyes observed the group standing before the man known as Sinister. They were clones, the originals having been killed before, as well as subsequent copies. The Marauders represented crude works of his research. Still, they were useful in their own primitive way.
"I have a job for you." Sinister tossed a file to Scalphunter. He flicked through it, looking at the picture attached. Scalphunter turned back at Sinister.
"I want him alive and unharmed. You are to get him and bring him to me immediately."
"And what makes you think its going to be so easy? We've tried breaking into this dump before, remember."
"Indeed, but you will find it child's play now. After the energy that has been released into the astral plane, the telepaths are crippled. No doubt the others are too worried about their comrades. It will be a two-prong attack. Some of you will attack the telepaths. Engage with the team and keep them busy. When the attack begins, no doubt the majority will be deployed to defend them. During this time the target will be vulnerable. The others will secure the target. At the moment, security for the estate is pathetically lax. I have managed to open a terresect without being discovered. Escape will be guaranteed, as will success." Sinister raised a hand, and a glowing opening revealed itself. From the look of it, the terresect lead straight onto the Xavier estate. "Now go, and bring me back my creation."
Remy had fallen asleep shortly after Storm had left. Exhaustion made it easy, blocking out the fear that threatened to keep him awake. He rolled over in his sleep, his hair falling across his face. His dreams were pleasant, which is why he was more shocked than usual at the sounds of screaming coming from within in the mansion.
"INTRUDERS! RED ALERT! WE HAVE INTRUDERS IN THE MANSION!"
For the umpteenth time that night, Remy sat up in his bed with a pounding heart. He blinked as he saw the door to his room flung open. He looked up in utter confusion as Bobby ran inside and slammed the door shut. He barricaded it with a solid sheet of ice. Remy shook his head as he tried to make sense of what was happening.
"What's goin' on. What y' doin' here Drake?"
"Saving your life." Bobby went and grabbed some clothes from out Remy's drawer and tossed them into a bag. He strode over and grabbed the Cajun by his shoulders and hauled him to his feet. "Come on, wake up! We don't have time for this sleeping beauty!" Bobby shoved a change of clothes in his hands and went to watch the window. Still confused, Remy began changing his clothes as his sleep-muddled mind attempted to piece everything together.
"What's going on Bobby?" Remy finished changing and sat down on the edge of the bed. Past fears began creeping into his soul.
"We're under attack. The Prof barely sensed it before it happened."
A cold knife of terror stabbed Remy through the heart. "Who?"
"I'll tell you once we're clear. The one thing the Prof did manage to pick up was that they mainly wanted you. Since I was the closest one to your room, I get stuck with babysitting your Cajun ass."
Remy was too upset to give a smart retort. He was still confused, and knew the only way out was to trust Bobby. "What we do now den?"
"Now I make sure I can get us to one of the Blackbirds without running into anybody." Bobby checked the window one more time. "All clear, everybody must be wrestling on the other side." Bobby created an ice slide from the window. "Come on Gambit, we have to book it." Bobby grabbed the dazed man and dragged him onto the slide. They touched ground without incident. Bobby turned to his teammate.
"No matter what, the Professor ordered you to get out of here. If we run into trouble, let me deal with it. Just get your butt to a bird and take off. Got it?"
Remy nodded, his mind numb. He didn't want to leave. But since the Prof made it an order, and Bobby was willing to back it up, Remy knew his best bet was to listen for once and do as told. He didn't protest as Bobby dragged him towards the hanger. Bobby quickly slid to the nearest Blackbird and shoved Remy inside. Jumping in the pilot seat, Bobby fired the jet up.
"Going somewhere ice cube?"
Remy felt his stomach drop as he found himself staring at the side of a barrel pointed at the back of Iceman's head. He knew now what had happened back at the mansion, and why the Professor wanted him to escape. Scalphunter's smile was cruel and twisted and he held the weapon against Bobby's skull.
"Please, give me a reason."
"Last I heard, you never needed a reason," Bobby sneered.
"True. Guess I don't need one now." Scalphunter pulled his finger back...
Gambit grabbed the business end of the gun and shoved it back, ramming it into Scalphunter's face. Before he could recover, Iceman encased him in a block of solid ice and promptly kicked him off the plane. He locked the hatch while Remy started the lift off. In seconds, the Blackbird was streaking across the midnight sky. Bobby took over the controls, and Remy sagged back in his seat.
Bobby snorted. "The bastards tried to fake us out by attacking the Professor, Jean, and Betsy. I guess they expected them to still be hurt behind that wave thingy. Good thing you pulled it back. Last time I saw them, Cyclops was blasting Vertigo. Rogue was doing the tango with Arclight. Wolverine was breathing down Blockbuster's neck. Psylocke and Archangel were dealing with Harpoon and Riptide, and Beast and Storm took out Prism and Scrambler. Professor told me that Scalphunter was going after you and to make sure to get you out of there. By the way, thanks for the save." Bobby waited for some smart remark, but none came. He glanced over and saw the expression on Remy's face. "Hey, are you okay? You don't look so hot."
Remy crossed his arms, his hands clutching the sides of his stomach. Bobby put the plane on auto-pilot and went to go check on the Cajun.
"Gambit?" Bobby did not want to let on just how worried he was at the moment. Still, he couldn't keep a small tremor from entering his voice.
Remy glanced up, a strange and hunted color in his eyes. "Dey were after me." It wasn't a question, and the tone spoke volumes. Bobby didn't know what to say, and for once opted for the truth.
"Yes, they were after you. That's why the Professor wanted me to get you out of there." Bobby was going to say more, but stopped as Remy leaned forward in his seat. His body trembled, and Bobby was shocked to the teeth to see the Cajun trying hard not to cry.
"Should have let dem take me. Now de others are in trouble. Shouldn't have left like dat."
It was of the tip of Bobby's tongue to say 'If you had told us, we might have been able to help.' Fortunately, the more compassionate and caring side of him kept his mouth shut. He laid a hand on Remy's shoulders, offering what he hoped were words of support.
"And what would have happened if Sinister got his hands on you? The first wave would have been a love tap compared to what ~he~ would do with it. No, this time I agree with the Professor. We can't let Sinister get a hold of you. Besides, where's your faith? The X-Men can take care of themselves. Remember, the Marauders were expecting all the telepaths to be down. I can still see the look on Riptide's face when Betsy jabbed that psychic knife in the back of his head. They probably thought it was going to be easy. What I wouldn't give to see Sinny's face when those jerks go back empty-handed."
An incredulous expression passed over Remy's face. He looked up at Bobby. "Sinny?"
Bobby smiled. "Got it from Jubilee."
Remy dropped his head and stared at the floor. "Y' don' understand. He ain't gonna stop till he got me strapped back on de table. Y' t'ink we're safe? Nous ne sommes pas! If he catches up t' us, y' can just go ahead an' kiss your cold ass goodbye." Remy's voice broke at the last part. He turned away from Bobby, still struggling to contain himself.
Bobby looked down at Gambit. A feeling of something passed through him, and he was sure it was somewhere in between worry and concern. Because he's a teammate. You'd feel the same if it was any of the others. Bobby placed both hands on the Cajuns shoulders and shook him hard enough to make Remy face him.
"Listen to me. The Professor told me to protect you and I will. So get any thought of sacrificing yourself for the sake of the team out of your head right now. I won't let Sinister get you, and I won't let you hand yourself over to him. Suicide is not an option, so don't even go there. And if I even think that's what you're doing, I swear I'll freeze you right where you stand. You're stuck with me, got it?
"Good." Bobby sat back in the pilot's seat and took the controls. He continued to try and cheer the Cajun up and get his mind off of Sinister. "Don't worry about anything. The Prof gave me an address we can hole up in for awhile. Besides, I was going to take a vacation anyway." Bobby sighed with relief when he heard Gambit chuckle. Good, you still got your humor. Keep it bud, I think we'll need it before any of this is through. A small part of Bobby enjoyed the sound of Gambit's laugh, but that was squelched under the rest of his persona telling it to shut up and mind its own business.
"Y' couldn't have picked a better time t' get away mon ami."
"Well duh. Everyone knows the best time to take a vacation is when you have company over."
Gambit chuckled dryly. Then a question popped into his head, and he just had to know. He looked over at Bobby.
"Bobby, what where y' goin' to my room f' anyway?"
Remy sighed. Dis is goin' t' be like pullin' teeth. He thought for a bit and changed his direction.
"Y' said y' were de closest one t' my room when de Marauders attacked, right?" Bobby nodded. "Well, my room is at de end o' de hall. De only reason you'd be close is if y' were coming t' my room in de first place. So I'll ask again, what where y' coming t' my room f'?"
"Um..." Bobby hedged. He really didn't know why he had been going to Remy's room. Finally he came up with a good excuse.
"Jean wanted me to check on you. She would have done it herself, but I Scott was acting funny. Between me and Warren, she figured you'd be better off seeing me." It sounded doable, even if it wasn't true. Gambit seemed to believe it, and that was all that mattered. Bobby heaved a mental sigh of relief. Truth be told, he hadn't realized he was going to the Cajun's room until the Prof called him in his head. When he saw where he was, Bobby just assumed it was luck and left it at that.
Now, he wasn't so sure.
Bobby glanced over at Remy and noticed how tired he was. He sighed. "Why don't you get some sleep? We have a couple of hours in the air anyway. And you look like you could use it bud."
"Oui, but let me know if somethin' comes up."
"Sure thing. Go to sleep Gumbo."
Remy settled back in his chair. Within moments he was sound asleep. Bobby checked the coordinates and set the auto-pilot once more. Then he turned and took a good look at Gambit. With everything that happened, he was more than a little worried about the Cajun, though he kept telling himself it was out of team loyalty and nothing more. Bobby got up and fetched a blanket, tossing it gently over the sleeping man. Remy mumbled something in his sleep. Bobby cocked his ear and listened carefully.
Even in his sleep, Bobby could hear the undercurrents of pain and despair. He sighed as he took the controls and continued their flight, his mind wandering.
I don't know what's going on, but I won't let Sinny get you. I swear.
Bobby didn't notice the fervent emotions behind his promise as the Blackbird sped through the sky.
"IMBECILES!! YOU FAILED! HOW COULD YOU HAVE FAILED!"
All the Marauders winced. They had never truly seen Sinister angry, and wished they didn't have to see it now. The volume alone was extraordinary and terrifying to the senses.
"IDIOTS!! I SEND YOU ON A FOOL'S ERRAND, AND YOU CAN'T EVEN DO THAT RIGHT!"
All of them know better than to try and explain right now. Better to wait until Sinister quiets down before explaining that his information was wrong. Not that it would get them off the hook...
"DO YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU LET SLIP THROUGH YOUR BRAINLESS FINGERS! CAN YOU COMPREHEND THE IMPORTANCE OF WHAT YOU FOOLS LOST!"
The tirade continued for another hour, staying at a constantly loud volume. Finally, Sinister's voice lowered to barely tolerable as his anger cooled slightly.
"It is hoped that you can explain your dismal performance in your attack tonight. And for your sake, it had better be beyond satisfactory."
Scalphunter spoke up. "We would have had the punk, but the telepaths weren't exactly as crippled as you thought...boss."
Sinister glared. "Go on."
"They knew we were coming. Baldy sensed it. Not to mention that the two broads were there too. Not only did they know we were coming, but they knew why. The ice cube jetted out with the punk before we could even get to him." Scalphunter decided long before to omit the part where he actually lost his quarry.
Sinister sat back in his chair. He thought carefully, and waved his hand to dismiss the Marauders assembled before him. They left in earnest, all but running out of the room. Sinister continued to ponder the events that resulted in the failure to reacquire his creation. He walked slowly from the room and headed for the computers. If what he suspected was true, then his child may prove more difficult to bring back than he thought.
Difficult, but not impossible.
Bobby opened the door and dropped the bags on the inside. Though not as large as the mansion, the house he stepped into was roomy in its own right. It was two stories, with the bed and personal bathrooms on the second floor. He gave the place the once over and turned back to his traveling companion.
"A little dusty, but looks okay. Come in already."
The younger mutant walked in behind Bobby, his movements slow and sluggish. Despite the sleep on the Blackbird, Remy still hadn't fully recovered from the abrupt departure from the mansion. His eyes roamed over the room blearily. After a minute, he shuffled over to the couch and collapsed in a heap. Bobby looked at him with a feeling of concern that was uncharacteristic in his usual dealings with the Cajun. After locking the door, Bobby walked over and sat carefully on the edge of the sofa.
"Are you okay?"
The short reply irritated Bobby. I'm ~trying~ to help you, and you're ~not~ making it easy. Bobby leaned forward and noted Gambit's flushed face. He set a casual hand on Remy's forehead, and snatched it back quickly.
"Jeez, you're burning up..."
"Dat's what dey all say."
Bobby gritted his teeth. He tried to remember that Gambit was never one to show when he needed help, nor did he ever ask for it. Why me? Storm or Jean or Rogue should be here. Why me? A voice in his head rebelled, saying he could take care of Gambit as well as any of them. Drake silenced them all and concentrated on his teammate.
Bobby stood up and looked down at the man sprawled across the couch. Without thinking, he hoisted Gambit into his arms and carried him to the nearest bedroom. The fact that the Cajun didn't have a ready retort to offer told Bobby that he was worse off than he would ever admit.
That was not good at all.
Bobby kicked open a door leading to a bedroom and laid Remy down gently on the bed. He walked into the adjoining bathroom and returned with a damp cloth, which he placed on Remy's brow. Remy mumbled something that resembled a 'thank you' before his eyes drooped and closed altogether. Bobby sat on the edge and considered calling the mansion to get some help. No, he knew that was out of the question. No doubt Sinister was monitoring the communications to and from the school. He couldn't take the chance. For better or for worse, they were on their own.
Bobby removed Gambit's shoes and shirt, keeping the flesh to flesh contact down to a minimum. A small part of him marveled at the soft feel of Remy's skin. I didn't know a guy's skin could be so soft... He lowered him back down on the bed and got up to leave. He was almost at the door when he heard a murmur from the bed.
Never hearing that tone in Remy's voice before, Bobby felt compelled to go back over to the bed. He glanced at those alien red on black eyes and experienced a feeling that anyone else would describe as tender. But Bobby wasn't accustomed with the feeling, and chalked it up to the batch of nachos he had earlier.
"What is it bud? You need anything? Water? Aspirin? I think there might be some on the Blackbird..."
Bobby didn't now how to respond. He was used to the unflappable, arrogant, 'been there, done that' attitude the Cajun was so famous for. The vulnerable man lying before him was a person Bobby had never met before. Thoughts and feelings churned inside of him as Bobby sat back on the edge of the bed. It was obvious that Gambit needed something, but for the life of him, Bobby didn't know what. Nor was he sure that he himself could give it to him.
"I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."
Gambit rolled on his side. Bobby spent a second convincing himself that those were not tears sparkling in Remy's eyes.
Bobby cocked his head. "For what?"
"For dis. I know y' don't wanna be here. Hell, I don't want t' be here. But I am, we are, an' I'm sorry f' getting y' mixed up in dis."
Bobby held back an urge to smack him. "Stupid Cajun, everything isn't always your fault you know. This isn't your fault either. So stop beating yourself up about it."
Remy didn't, couldn't believe him. "Non. Wasn't f' me, de X-men wouldn't be fighting de Marauders..."
Bobby heard enough. He straddled Gambit and pinned his arms down above his head. His face was grave as angry blue eyes met with startled red.
"Look. I am only going to say this once. It's not your fault. You didn't know you were going to stress out so bad that the wave thingy would get loose. You didn't know Sinister could trace it. You didn't make Sinister send the Marauders after you. And you didn't make the bastards attack us. Now I'm getting sick and tired of you and this damn martyr attitude. So do us both a favor, and quit it."
As his ire cooled, Bobby noticed the sheer terror surfacing in Remy's eyes. His body trembled beneath Bobby's, but he made no move to escape. A solitary tear traced a path down the side of his face, and Remy's voice held an unfamiliar quiver when he spoke.
Confusion marked Robert's face. He let go of the Cajun's arm and sat back on his knees. Bobby stared inquisitively at the Cajun. Remy crossed his arms across his chest and seemed to pull himself in. His breath caught in his throat, and a bewildered Iceman watched on as Remy began to cry.
Remy didn't respond. He curled into a tight ball underneath Bobby and sobbed brokenly. Bobby got off the bed quickly and stood to Remy's side. His shock was put on hold as he tried to figure out a way to help.
"Gambit? Remy? Talk to me. What's wrong? Why are you cr... upset?"
Bobby reached out to touch his shoulder. Remy jerked away from the touch as if it burned. His sobs deepened.
Bobby slowly sat back down, careful not to make any movements that might send Remy further into the nightmare he was trapped in. His voice carried notes of warmth and concern as he attempted to speak through Remy's pain.
"It's okay Remy. You're safe. Nobody's going to hurt you. It's alright. Just calm down, okay?"
Whether it was the tone or the person, Remy wasn't sure. Somewhere beyond the abyss he heard a voice calling to him. After eternity passed, he was able to reply. Garnet red peeked from under long lashes and observed Bobby hesitantly.
Bobby exhaled loudly. "Yeah, it's me. You okay?"
"Non. I...I don't...want t' hurt...no more."
Bobby would never be able to remember how he wound up holding Remy in his arms. One minute the Cajun was crying wretchedly on the bed, the next minute Bobby was stroking his back and uttering words of assurance under his breath. Some time later, Remy calmed down enough to pull himself out of Bobby's arm. He sniffed and averted his eyes down, away from Bobby's face. Bobby scanned the room and found a box of tissue on a table. He handed a few to Remy, who wiped his face.
"Wanna talk about it?"
He didn't, really. Remy learned a long time ago that he had to deal with this on his own. But he couldn't not talk about it. The pain he lived with was eating him alive. After tasting freedom once, the pain did not want to be imprisoned again. It needed a voice, and Bobby was offering an ear. He fidgeted, not knowing where to begin. Bobby saved him.
"Sinister did something to you," it was more a statement than a question. Remy nodded.
Remy sighed. "When I was a kid, before I joined de Guild. I was maybe 'bout 6 or 7, mebbe older. I don't really remember. He came out o' nowhere. I was workin' de street, picking pockets an' such. I had my charm power back den. I was sizin' dis one guy up, when he turned an' looked at me. I figure he was trouble an' let him be. But he followed me. I panicked an' ran. I went t' an alley I always hid in. Den I saw a weird light glow an' de guy stepped out of it."
Sounds like a terresect, Bobby thought as Remy continued.
"So he comes over, an' I'm thinkin' I'm dead. He looks at me an' starts talkin'. I couldn't understand everythin' cause he was using all dese big words. All I got was dat his name was Essex, he was some kind o' scientist, an' dat I'd be able t' help him. He offered me a place t' stay. I thought he was one o' those types. Not dat I haven't done dat before..."
Bobby's face went pale as he put two and two together. "But...but you were just a kid."
Remy shrugged, "It's no big deal, just another john. So when he asked if I wanted t' come with him, I was like yeah, sure. Even one night out o' de cold is better dan nothin'. He told me t' walk through dat weird light. I didn't really want t', but he had my arm an' dragged me into it. We were in dis room wit' lots o' big tubes. I tried t' look in them, but he was pullin' me too fast. He took me in a little room, kinda like a doctor's. I got scared again, but he said he'd take care of me, just wanted t' make sure I was okay. He looked me over an' gave me some pills wit' some water. Somethin' 'bout malnutrition. After dat, he took me t' a room. It was smaller dan de first room, but it had a bed. I thought he'd want me t' do somethin' for him now. But he just said t' get some sleep an' he'd explain everythin' later. Then he walked out an' locked the door. I'd never been in a bed, least not by myself. It was soft an' clean. I went t' sleep pretty quick, 'cause I didn't even remember goin' t' sleep at all. When I woke up, he was standing dere wit' some food. I still didn' know what he wanted, but I wasn't goin' t' complain. Compared t' what I had before, dis was heaven. He waited 'till I was finished an' told me de story. He used a lot o' big words, but he said he was workin' on somethin' important, an' dat I might be de only one who could help him. He said I would stay wit' him an' I wouldn't have t' go back t' de street. Hell, I thought ~anything~ was better dan de street. I was too stupid t' know dat y' don' get somethin' f' nothin'."
His tone grew bitter. A hand rested on his shoulder, and Remy saw Bobby gazing at him with deep sympathy.
"You were only a kid. A kid who was living on the streets. I would have done the same thing if I was in your shoes."
Remy's head dropped, a fall of hair obscuring his face. "Mebbe, mebbe not. Not goin' t' argue. I wish I could say dat I wouldn't do it again, but I can't." Remy tucked his hair behind his ear and continued.
"So he lets me stay dere. At first it was okay. Room, food, a few clothes. He'd give me a checkup every once an' awhile t' make sure I was alright. All de time he kept talkin' 'bout how I'd be his 'avatar'. I didn' know what he was talkin' 'bout, and I didn' really care. I was more worried 'bout when I was gonna have t' start payin' him back f' everythin'."
"A few months went by. By den I learned how t' get around de place. From what I could tell, de place was big. A lot o' doctors worked dere, but it was obvious dat Essex ran de place. Every time he went t' a room all de people jumped and started runnin' around. If de man said boo, I thought they'd 'ave a heart attack."
"Like I said, everythin' was okay at first. But dere was one place I couldn't go into. Didn't know if it was a room or another lab or what. Whenever I try t' ask him 'bout it, he just told me not t' bother with it, dat I didn't need t' know 'bout de people who worked in dere. Said I'd meet dem later anyway. I didn' ask again. Some t'ings y' learn quick, an' dat was one o' dem. But dat didn' stop me from tryin' t' get in de place. Wish I knew den what it really was..."
Remy shivered as the memories played in his mind. "One day I saw Essex go in de room. De door was left open, so I snuck in t' see what was really in dere. Dat's when I saw them."
"Who, the Marauders?" guessed Bobby.
"Oui. I saw dem, but dey didn't see me, not at first. But worse dan seeing dem, I could feel them. I felt how bad dey were. It's like bein' locked in a room full of skunks, only instead o' it messin' wit' your nose, it messes with your soul. Dieu, I thought I was goin' t' throw up, it was so bad. All I wanted was t' get out of dere, fast."
"I tried to sneak out, but I got caught. Harpooner grabbed me an' dragged me back to Essex. Being dat close t' dem made it worse. I felt sick, couldn't breathe, it was awful. Harpooner sat me down in front of Essex, touchin, me in a couple o' spots when he did. Made me gag. I usually never cared 'bout doin' dat before, but de thought o' doing it with any o' dem was beyond disgusting."
"So I'm sittin' on de floor, sick an' scared an' wonderin' what he's gonna do t' me. I hear him tell de others t' get out. One o' dem said somethin', Scrambler I think, and Essex blasted him. Dat was de first time I saw what he really looked liked. De others picked Scrambler off de wall an' ran out. I didn't feel so sick after dey left, but I still didn't know what Essex was gonna do. His voice was different when he spoke. Told me his real name was Sinister, an' dat he was goin' t' create a new race o' mutants. Said I would control dem, dat dey would kneel before me, an' I would kneel before him. Like I knew what he was talkin' 'bout. Den he asked if I had felt what de Marauders were like. Couldn't speak, just nodded. He said dat was what made me special. Said telepaths were a dime a dozen, but I was dee only true telempath he'd ever found."
Remy nodded. "Like a telepath, but instead of reading thoughts, I read emotions. I can control it now, but back den it use to mess with me. Especially when I came close to someone who were just rotten."
"Like the Marauders," Bobby murmured.
Bobby looked at the Cajun with a new level of respect. "My God Remy, how did you deal with it. I think I would have gone insane." A dry chuckle answered him. "What?"
"What makes you think I didn't?"
"Well I mean...er...that is..." A dull red crept across Bobby's face. Remy chuckled again.
"S'okay. A couple of times I t'ink I did lose it, but I learned t' control it pretty fast." Remy's face grew dark once more. "The problem with de Marauders was dat dere was so many o' dem, each one worse dan de next. Never had t' deal wit' so much before." Remy sighed.
"Dat was what Sinister wanted, t' control my power. I didn't know how t' broadcast, but he did. Said de stronger de emotion, de more likely I would send it to others. Once I was introduced t' extreme emotions, I would be able t' control my telempathy."
"It went t' hell from dere. Suddenly he put me through test after test after test. Some made me dizzy, a few left me sick, some I don' remember. A lot of I wish I didn' remember. And de Marauders were always hidin' somewhere close by."
"Finally he said de time had come f' me t' learn my full potential. He strapped me down t' a table like he always did. I t'ought it was another test. Den he left. I didn't see de Marauders until dey were right at de table. Dey started touchin' me, takin' off my clothes. I screamed. I didn' t'ink Sinister would let dem hurt me, not like dat. Before, if anyone looked at me de wrong way, he blasted dem. He protected me. He said... he said he'd... take care..."
Bobby's heart broke along with Remy's voice. Tears of sympathy welled in his eyes, and he angrily blinked them back. It was fortunate that neither Sinister nor any of the Marauders were there, or Bobby was sure he'd kill them on sight. He looked at his friend. Remy was trying hard to contain his pain. Bobby picked up a blanket from off the bed and covered Remy's shoulders with it. Remy clutched the sides and wrapped it tightly around himself. He wouldn't look at Bobby, who sighed deeply.
"I think I understand. He was the first person who cared about you, wasn't he?" A nod. "Kinda felt like...like a father or something?"
Remy nodded again. "No one...cared...what happened to me. I know...I...I shouldn't have... been so...stupid..."
Bobby pulled the younger man back into his arms. A myriad of emotions swirled through his heart. Grief and sympathy for Remy, disgust at the life he was forced to live, hatred for the Marauders and Sinister.
Remy trembled violently in his arms. "Bobby, your feelings, I can'." The sentence trailed off. Bobby cursed himself and calmed down to keep from broadcasting what he felt to the already battered Cajun. "I'm sorry."
"Not your fault." Bobby could tell from the tone that Remy thought it was more his fault than Bobby's.
"And it's not yours either." He looked down at Remy's tear streaked face. "Do you want to go on? We can stop if you want."
Remy drew himself closer to Bobby, finding solace that had been absent for most of his life. He took a deep breath and went on.
"Dey hurt me. I couldn't fight dem. What made it worse was I felt how much dey enjoyed hurtin' me. My throat went raw from all de screamin' I did. Dat didn' help, dey wanted t' hear me scream. I don' know where Sinister was when dey had me. He didn' show up until he t'ought I had enough. I was confused. He let dem hurt me like dat, but he always care of me after. He even stopped dem when dey got too rough. On one hand, I hated him f' bringin' me dere and lettin' dem do dat. On de ot'er, he still took care o' me. After awhile, I guess I just t'ought it was normal f' someone who cared 'bout y' t' let y' get hurt."
Bobby shook his head frantically. "That's not true Remy. Sinister is just a sick fuck on some trip about making bigger mutants. He didn't care about you. The X-Men care though. We wouldn't hurt you."
Bobby winced. Though he had never been close to Gambit before and considered Rogue a friend, even he had to admit that Rogue pulled a dirty move when she brought Joseph. Shoving him in Gambit's face didn't make it any better.
"Don't judge the rest of us by one person. Storm cares about you. I think Jean and Hank does too. And you know any of us would have your back." He didn't mention that he cared as well. Bobby was sure Remy would either make a joke, or worse, not believe him.
Remy smiled slightly, "I know, but it don' hurt t' hear it." He closed his eyes and carried on with the story.
"Every time dey had me, Sinister would run some test. Don' know what he was lookin' f'. He must have found it one day. I had blacked out once while dey were on me. It was just too much t' take. When I woke up, he was over me, tellin' me dat I had done well, an' dat I was stronger dan he expected. He went on 'bout some plan or another. I didn't care anymore. I just wanted t' get away. I t'ought 'bout all de pain I went t'rough. It was like feeling it all over again. Only it was different. I was a part of it, or it was a part o' me. Couldn't tell. I heard Sinister scream, an' saw him out cold. I got up an' got de hell out as fast as I could. I was scared de Marauders would find me, an' Sinister wouldn't be able t' save me if dey did. I ran as far as I could till I just dropped. Found a hiding place an' stayed dere f' a bit. When I could walk, I made my way back t' N'awlins. Didn't go back t' where I first saw him. I wasn't dat dumb. Went back t' stealing what I could. Tried t' steal Poppa's wallet before I knew him. Y' know de rest."
Remy's breath caught, and he cried tears of shame, pain, and exhaustion. He'd never told anyone what had happened before tonight. It took a lot out of him, and now he felt drained. Remy unconsciously fell deeper into Bobby's arm, where he simply cried himself to sleep.
Bobby sat reeling. He knew Gambit had a rough life, but nothing prepared him for the horror story he'd heard. But it was more than that. Bobby was shocked by the sudden closeness he felt with the Cajun. He should have been uncomfortable with it, nervous at the very least. But he found that all he wanted was to protect the man lying in his arms. Then there was his physical reaction.
Bobby lived all his life believing that the only way to being happy was to find a woman he loved and who loved him back. But none of his previous relationships ever went that way. Now he was beginning to wonder if maybe it the fault didn't lie with them like he first assumed. Maybe it had to do with himself.
Admit Drake. You couldn't make a relationship last because you never felt anything for them. And besides, you claim you were jealous of Gambit because he had Rogue, but maybe it was the other way around.
Bobby gasped as the truth smacked him in the face. How many days did he bug Gambit just to be around him. How many times did he avoid a Danger Room session so he could watch the Cajun in action. How many fights did he pick when Gambit whenever he was going out on the town, or worse, with Rogue. All the pranks, jokes, insults and conflicts made sense now. Bobby thought it was because of Rogue, but now, holding Remy in his arms, he knew better.
My God. I'm in love with him.
Laying Remy back onto the bed, Bobby got up and left the room, leaving the door open in case Gambit might need him for anything. He went to the adjoining room and began pacing back and forth. His mind jumped from one thought to another as the cold hard truth stared him in the face.
Me...in love with him. When did this happen. ~Why~ did this happen? I don't like guys...okay, maybe a little. God, if others found out. So what? I want him...no, can't be right, but nothing else makes any sense!
After fifteen minutes of steady pacing, Bobby wasn't any closer to resolving his dilemma. His brain was still going around when he heard a scream from Remy's room. Instinct kicked in and the Iceman slid into the bedroom, wondering if the Marauders had somehow found them. When he got there, he found Remy thrashing wildly in his bed. Bobby shifted back to human form and ran over to the terrified Cajun. He curbed his first instinct, which was to hold the man down and try to wake him up. After all he'd heard, that would more than likely send Gambit into greater hysterics. So Bobby instead tried coaxing Remy from his nightmare.
"Rem, you're dreaming. Wake up. It's only a nightmare. Wake up bud."
It felt like forever to Bobby before Remy came around to full consciousness. He looked at Bobby with a mixture of fear and relief on his face.
"I was dreaming."
"Yeah, I know." Bobby sat on the edge of the bed. "What was it about?"
"Dat wave, since dat what y' guys call it. I think I..." Remy bit his lip, his eyes full of shame. Bobby guessed what happened.
"Y' let it go again?"
"Not like before. Wasn't as strong as de last time. I didn't mean to, really."
"I know. Nobody's blaming you. We just want to help."
Remy closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them, they shame was gone, replaced by something Bobby couldn't read. His voice was low when he spoke.
"Do y' really feel dat way Bobby?"
It took a moment for Bobby to remember what Remy had said last night about being a telempath. He'd forgotten that Gambit could read emotions better than Jean could read minds. He panicked, and opted for total ignorance as a response. "What?"
"Do you...really love me?" Remy knew the answer, but he had to hear it for himself. He needed to hear that somebody loved him, despite what Sinister had done to him.
Bobby's nerves were shot as he all but fell into those disconcerting red eyes that stared back at him, waiting for an answer. He considered lying, but that was out of the question. He'd rather take on the Marauders in nothing but a pair of Speedos than lie to Remy now. He pulled his shattered pride and courage from where ever they had ran to and spoke.
"Y…yes. Yes, I do. I...I love you."
The words stunned Bobby more than they had Gambit. Remy at least was already prepared for the other mutant's feelings, but the confession stilled surprised Bobby. Yet, there was a strange sense of relief as well. Telling Remy how he felt was almost liberating for him. It didn't last long, as shock raced back through him when Remy covered one of his hands with his own. Bobby sat still while those long, graceful fingers traced absent patterns on his skin. Then Bobby saw Remy's face. A small smile played across his lips. It was the first truly sincere smile Bobby had seen from him since Rogue had brought Joseph back to the mansion. Bobby returned the grin a bit self-consciously.
"T'ank y' Bobby. It means a lot t' know y' care, even after what Sinister did."
"Stupid Cajun. That wasn't you fault, and of course I care." Bobby exasperated.
"So do I, my child."
The jolt to Bobby's system at hearing that voice triggered his powers to react on their own. He was instantly in ice form and whirled around to find Sinister standing at the door to the bedroom. Gambit was still on the bed on the bed, frozen with fear. He couldn't make his body move even if he'd wanted to. His mind simply stopped at he looked at the man responsible for all the pain and nightmares that plagued him in his life. He couldn't help Bobby as the Iceman went on the attack and hit Sinister with everything he had. Iceman jerked Remy up by his arm and slid them both out the window before Sinister had a chance to recover. Bobby's only thought was to get to the Blackbird.
The Marauders didn't give them a chance.
Too late Bobby saw Vertigo out the corner of his eye. A wave of dizziness tossed him for six. He fell to his knees and something struck him on the back of the head. The last thing he saw was Remy being tossed to the ground by Arclight, and Scrambler all but drooling over him.
Rem, I'm sorry.
Consciousness came slowly to the Iceman, and with it the memories of what had knocked him out in the first place. He swore as he sat up slowly, the room spinning around him. Bobby saw that he had been put in a small cell. His hands were cuffed, and an inhibitor collar was locked around his neck.
He did not see Gambit.
A door on the far wall slid open. Sinister walked in, followed by Scalphunter and Vertigo. He waved the last two away as he came in full view of Iceman. Sinister was cold and aloof as always. His face held no emotion while his eyes bore into Robert Drake. Bobby glared at him, his hatred from earlier rising to the surface.
"Ah, so you are awake Mr. Drake. That is good. I told the Marauders not to cause you any undue injury during your transport."
Bobby didn't answer. He wouldn't give Sinister anything until he knew what the hell was going on. He wanted to ask how he found them, but settled for just glaring at the monster. Sinister, as is reading his mind, answered his unspoken question.
"After the initial attack, I realized that LeBeau was far stronger than I first suspected. His shields were on full strength, so I couldn't pick up his alpha signature. I knew that Xavier would have removed LeBeau from the mansion in the hopes of keeping him from me. Finally I decided to simply configure my computers to search for any energy waves similar to the first. It stood to reason that if LeBeau lost control once, however briefly, he would do so again soon. Though the wave was substantially weaker than the previous one, it was strong enough for me to fix upon its, and Gambit's location. But that is neither here nor there."
Sinister came closer to the bars separating him from Drake. Bobby prayed to whatever God might be listening to just let him punch the S.O.B. just once...
"Mr. Drake, it would appear that I am somewhat in need of your services."
That wasn't what Bobby expected to hear. It thoroughly confused him, for about two seconds. Then his rage came back with a vengeance.
"You sick fuck!! Where's Gambit?! If you've hurt him..."
"My dear Robert, harming Remy is the last thing I would ever want. He is too important to me to allow any harm to befall him."
"Oh? Then explain letting the Marauders gang rape a kid!" Bobby was furious, both at the current situation as well as for letting him and Gambit get caught in the first place. The Professor had told him to protect Gambit, and he'd failed miserably. He swore he would get Gambit out of this, even if it meant killing every single Marauder with his own hands. He continued to stare death at Sinister.
Sinister remained composed. "That was an unfortunate necessity to help Remy learn to true scope of his powers. He needed the experience to strengthen his untapped potential."
"Oh sure, I get it. Let a group of deranged sadistic fuckers get their hands on a kid so he learns how strong he really is. Gee, and here I thought you did it because they canceled your membership at the video store." Sarcasm dripped from every word.
"Your wit is ill placed, Mr. Drake. Now as I said, I'm in need of your services..."
Bobby's eyes sparked with righteous anger. "And as I'm gonna say, go to hell."
"I do not have time to discuss theology with you Drake. If you do not wish any harm to come to LeBeau, you will help me."
"Bastard! What have you done to him?"
Sinister walked over to a monitor and switched it on. Bobby could just make out what looked like an examining room. A gurney sat in the middle. Restraining straps held down a still figure with a crown of thick reddish-brown hair. Bobby's hatred and fear tripled. He gave Sinister a look colder than his own powers.
"Why am I not surprised."
Sinister ignored the comment. "As you can see, I was forced to restrain and sedate LeBeau for fear of his inflicting injury to himself. He has been extremely violent since his arrival here..."
Bobby cut him off, "Can you blame him asshole! I'd be violent too if you hadn't slapped this damn collar on my neck."
"I'm afraid you misunderstand. He hasn't been violent towards me. He's been busy trying to hurt himself."
Bobby sat very still as he thought about what Sinister told him. He remembered the anguish in his friend's eyes. If keeping the others safe meant killing himself, Bobby knew Gambit would do it in a heartbeat. Robert's own heart pounded in his chest. He willed himself to calm down and looked up at Sinister.
"And what does this have to do with me?"
"Simple. LeBeau has promised me that he would cease any future actions to harm himself if he is given an opportunity to speak with you. Furthermore, he has agreed to return to my care in exchange for your safe return to the X-Men."
Bobby froze, the blood draining from his face. After everything he'd heard that night, Bobby couldn't believe Remy would willingly turn himself back over to Sinister for any reason. Then the rest of Sinister's words sank in.
Oh God, he's doing it for me. Bobby knew he didn't have a lot of time and began to think of a way to get him and Remy out away from Sinister. He stalled for time.
"I still don't get it. What exactly do you need from me?"
Something that sounded vaguely close to a sigh emerged from Sinister's lips. "What I need is for you to speak with our Cajun friend and convince him of your health and general well being. After which time, I shall send you back to the X-Men. LeBeau will remain here under my supervision."
"Just like that? Excuse me if I find that a little hard to swallow, Sinny."
"Believe what you will Mr. Drake. While you might provide me with an interesting genetic case study, I have no real use for you. LeBeau's cooperation is essential to my work. If returning you will ensure that, then you will be returned."
Bobby shook his head. It looked liked he was going to have one shot at getting them out of this mess. He only hoped it would be enough.
"I still don't like the way this smells. Tell you what, let me talk to Gambit. If this is what he wants, then fine."
Sinister quirked an eyebrow. "You would leave LeBeau with me? Why do I find that hard to believe? Especially since the encounter in the bedroom with indicate a deep concern for your teammate."
A nonchalant shrug was Bobby's reply. "I had to say something to calm him down. The last thing I needed was a crying Cajun on my hands on top of everything else. Besides, it wasn't my idea to baby-sit him. I never really liked the guy anyway." Though he was saying it for Sinister's benefit, Bobby still hated himself for saying it at all. If given half a chance, he'd show Remy just how much he truly did care about him.
"Hmm. Very well. I will allow you to speak with LeBeau. However, I would advise you not to repeat what you have said to me. I need him sane. Such an admission might cause a mental breakdown, the likes of which I do not have time for. Understood?"
Inwardly, Bobby breathes a sigh of relief. "Yeah whatever. Can you hurry up? I'd like to get back before Playboy channel comes on."
"Patience, Mr. Drake. LeBeau is still under the effects of the sedative. It is quite strong, as LeBeau seems to have a high tolerance to most drugs of this type. I will awaken him, then you may talk." Sinister turned and walked out the room. Bobby leaned his back against the wall and forced himself to think of a way out of this madness. He knew Sinister wouldn't let them talk privately. Still, his best shot of escaping would be when he got to talk to Remy. If they could get out of the building... then what? It occurred to Bobby that he didn't have the foggiest idea where they were in relation to anything. And there was still the small problem with the Marauders.
Bobby felt himself sinking into despair as all his ideas kept hitting brick walls. Then a feeling of fear and caution washed over him. He didn't know where it came from, it just hit him...
Bobby concentrated on the feeling. Sure enough, he could sense the Cajun's presence behind the emotions. Bobby sent back a felling of calm and warmth. It was greeted in turn with elation and relief. Bobby sighed. If only Remy could read minds as well as emotions.
~Careful what you wish for mon ami.~
Bobby's eyes bugged out of his skull. ~Remy?~
~Oui. It's me. Y' okay Bobby?~
~Uh yeah... how?~
~Don't know. I think I can only do it wit' y'.~
~Like some kind of affinity?~
Remy paused, long enough to scare Bobby. ~Hey bud, you still there?~
~Yeah. Hard t' t'ink straight. Damn Sinister drugged me.~
~I know. We have to get out of here.~
~Non. Sinister let y' go if I stay here. Y' an' de others be safe as long as he got me.~
Bobby gritted his teeth. For all that he cared for Remy, the man irked the hell out of him with his grandiose self-sacrificing attitude. ~And how long do you think we'll be safe before Sinister starts using that wave thingy himself? Think about it Rem. Every telepath felt that thing for miles, and that was a small one. If he gets a hold of it, no one will be safe.~
~No buts. We are going to get out of here. WE, as in me and you. Besides, if you think I'm just gonna pour my heart out to you and let you go, you got another thing coming.~
~...okay. What we do?~
~The bastard stuck a collar on me, so I can't use my powers. But I take it that Sinny doesn't know about you being able to talk to me?~
~Don' t'ink so. I can' really control de wave, so he didn' bother wit' a collar on me. Least not yet.~
~Good. Let him think you're too weak to charge anything. Hopefully he won't bother with one. We only got one shot at this. I need you to blow this damn collar off of me. Can you do it?~
Sheer terror cascaded through Bobby. He almost collapsed under the force of it. He knew it wasn't his, and tried to calm the Cajun down.
~Gambit, please! Your projecting!~
After a few minutes the fear subsided. Bobby gasped for air as his mind gained some semblance of order. He waited for Gambit to speak again.
~Sorry, didn' mean t' do dat.~
~What happened Rem? Why were you so scared all of a sudden?~
~Y' want me t' blow up your collar! Y' know how dangerous dat is! What if I mess up? Y' could lose your head. I could... damn it, I could lose y'. Non, won' do it. Rather stay here an' let de Marauders have me. I won't hurt y' Bobby.~
Bobby heard the pain as well as the love behind Gambit's thoughts. He had to calm his euphoria at the knowledge that Remy felt the same way and stick to the problem at hand. Bobby projected feelings of gentleness and trust as he spoke.
~I wouldn't ask if I didn't think you could do it. I've seen you work. You can knock a fly out the sky if you felt like it Remy. I know you can do this. I trust you. Just trust yourself okay?~
~Very. We're not going to get a second chance.~
~Okay, I free y', den what?~
~Then you get the hell out of dodge and let me take care of it from there.~
~I trust you Rem, and you have to trust me. Don't worry, I'm not planning any suicide runs today. I'll be fine. Just blow the collar and scram, got it?~
~Got it. You'd better not be lying t' me.~
Bobby grinned to himself. ~Never. Besides, when we get out of here, I have every intention of getting that game of strip poker you've been promising.~
~Merde. Y' just wanted t' get a look at Stormy naked.~
~And who said anybody else was invited?~
~...oh. Well den, I hope y' like losin'.~
Bobby didn't have a chance to respond as Scalphunter came into the room. Bobby forced himself quiet so his hatred wouldn't backlash on Gambit. He stared coldly at the Marauder.
"Boss says it's time to talk to your friend, Popsicle. Get up."
Slowly, Bobby got to his feet. Actually, he felt fine, but didn't want to give anything away. He and Remy would need all the advantages they could get.
Scalphunter stood to the side of the door, gun in hand. Just like earlier, he didn't really need a reason, and Bobby felt certain he was still standing only because Sinister told Scalphunter not to kill him. The thought did nothing to endear the man to him, and Bobby's mind began toying with the idea of various means of torture if he got a hold of Sinister.
The hallway Bobby was led to was large, white, and repetitious. After about a couple of turns, Bobby gave up trying to remember which way they were going.
Just one shot. Make it count Drake
Bobby was lead into the room that Gambit was kept in. The restraints on his arms were taken off, though the ones on his legs remained. Gambit sat up, wincing slightly. Bobby fought the urge to run over and rip the restraints off. Rash actions would get him killed fast.
Scalphunter sat Bobby down hard in a chair not too close to the gurney. "Ten minutes," he said, and left. Bobby looked over at the Cajun, who nodded his head off to the right. Bobby didn't have to turn his head to know that a camera was watching the whole exchange. With the collar and cuffs on, Bobby knew that Gambit was their last hope. He started talking and hoped that whatever Remy was going to do, he did it quickly.
"Yeah. Little groggy, but fine."
"You really want to do this?" Bobby caught a flicker of movement from Gambit's hand. God, please let this work
"Don' have a lot o' choice 'bout it really. Don' do it, he'll make me, an' kill y', or worse. Don't t'ink y' want t' be another one o' his experiments."
Bobby gave him a sardonic smile. "Not really." From his viewpoint, Bobby could make out a small hair pin in Gambit's left hand. You'd better either be left-handed or ambidextrous. And where in the hell did you get a bobbypin from? Bobby decided to ask him about that when they got out of here.
"So I have t' do dis. It's best dis way." The pin glowed softly, hid safely away from the camera.
Bobby caught Remy's eyes. "I have t' do this." This was more of a question from Gambit; Bobby understood it perfectly. Do I have to do this?
"I understand." Do it.
There was no warning. The camera filmed Gambit sitting up on the gurney before a flash of light appeared. A second later, the camera was destroyed as Iceman froze it, letting it shatter into a million pieces.
Sinister knew the two X-Men would attempt an escape, but had not counted on the sheer lunacy of their actions. Gambit could have easily taken off his teammate's head. Sinister cursed himself for underestimating his child once again. He hit a button, sending a knock-out gas to flood the room. Sinister didn't wait to see if it would work, and ran for the room himself. He called the Marauders on the way. He would not lose his child again.
Sinister and the Marauders were greeted by a solid wall of ice, which Sinister blasted immediately. This had the dire effect of allowing the glacier balanced on top to collapse on of them. Sinister roared in frustration, destroying the glacier in his wake. Several Marauders scrambled out from under the ice. Prism was shattered, while Arclight suffered a snapped neck. It appeared Iceman was not above killing after all. Sinister turned to the others.
"Find them, and under no circumstances are you to harm LeBeau."
Vertigo spoke up, "What about the other one?"
If Sinister's face wasn't cold before, it was now.
"Do what you will."
Scalphunter cocked his gun. "'Bout time you let us have some fun."
//If that's your idea of fun, remind me never to invite you over for a game of Twister.//
Everyone looked around as the voice of the Iceman came from all direction. Sinister's frustration grew at the thought of his plans being delayed by this... simpleton.
"You cannot escape. Hand over LeBeau and I may spare your life."
//And who said I was trying to escape asshole?//
A large shard of ice pierced Scrambler in the chest. It went through his heart, killing him instantly. Even as Sinister watched, Vertigo, Riptide, and Harpooner were frozen in place. All three shattered as smaller shards impacted with them.
Scalphunter began firing in every direction. The X-Man was playing for keeps, and he knew it. He fired at anything, not caring who he hit. This was unfortunate for Blockbuster, who went down under the hail of gunfire. Scalphunter did not stop firing until Sinister ended his life with a single energy blast to the head. An eerie silence filled the icy lair. Sinister glared at the dead bodies lying at his feet.
//All alone now Sinny? Good. This is just between you and me anyway.//
Sinister tried to pinpoint the location of the voice, but could not. "I underestimated you Mr. Drake. I firmly believed that the only X-Men capable of murder was Wolverine."
//It's only murder if they were alive. We both know they were just a bunch of clones anyway. What number was Prism again? Six? Seven? I lost count with that guy, he bites it so much.//
"This is not amusing Mr. Drake."
Sinister felt a sharp pain in his left arm, or at least the place where his arm used to be. He saw it lying in the ice. He grabbed the wound with his left hand, falling to his knees.
//What you and the Marauders did to Remy wasn't amusing either, but they sure laughed like it was.//
"You don't understand. With LeBeau's powers, I can eradicate all pain from the world."
Another ice shard separated Sinister from his right arm. Unable to throw a blast, Sinister watched as the Iceman finally came into view.
"Can it Sinny. I know you, and peace on earth isn't your thing."
"And what do you plan to do about it? Are you going to kill me? Do you think that will endear you to LeBeau? I have seen his soul, Drake. Killing me will not bring him to you."
Bobby laughed. Sinister could no longer feel emotions, otherwise, his blood would have ran cold at the sound. It was hollow, dark, and very close to Sinister's own voice. "I don't need to kill you to get closer to Gambit. You may have seen his soul, but I've seen something more. That alone is enough reason to want to kill you. But don't worry, I have no intention of offing you Sinny, even if I'd only be doing everyone a favor if I did."
"How noble of you. You know that by sparing me, you are giving LeBeau back to me as well. He is my creation, Drake. The culmination of all my work. He carries my genetic plans in his DNA."
The tip of a shard embedded itself under Sinister's chin. "What do you mean 'your genetic plans'?"
"Simple. Though I did not have a hand in conceiving him, I was able to alter his DNA to suit my needs. Seventy-two percent of his current genetic make-up comes from my hand. In short, you may consider him my child if you will."
This nearly drove Bobby over the edge. He spent what felt like an eternity trying desperately hard not to shove the shard straight through Sinister's head. He stared into the demonic red eyes. So much like Gambit's… Of course, it made sense now. Bobby knew then what he had to do, both for Remy's sake and his own.
"Like I said, I'm not going to kill you. The Marauders were clones, not real humans, so I don't think of it as killing. But for you, I have something better in mind. A way not to kill you, and still make sure you don't bother Remy again."
Numbness seeped into Sinister's body. It traveled in slow waves across his legs, moving upward towards his chest.
"I'm freezing the part of your mind that controls voluntary muscle coordination, at least that's what Beast calls it. I figure by getting rid of that, you won't be able to do anything to hurt anyone again. Especially Remy."
The numbness continued its chilling climb. "You… know… I'll… heal…"
Bobby shook his head. "Not this time. Brain cells don't regenerate like the rest of the body. And we know what happens when you subject the human body to freezing temperatures. You can't heal the cells you don't have. Sorry Sinny, no 'get out of jail free' card this time. Now you go to jail, the one in your mind."
Sinister couldn't speak, the numbness having reached his mouth. He fell forward in the ice, unable to support himself. His mind flew to any contingency plan that could get him out of this. As he lost consciousness, he realized that he had none.
Gambit laid on the ground outside the lab. He had run out of the lab like Bobby told him, but refused to go further. He couldn't access the link between them anymore; Bobby had shielded his own thought and emotions from Remy once the collar had blown off. So Remy sat and waited, hoping that Bobby was okay. He didn't want to think that Bobby was not okay. That only left him feeling weak and scared, not a good thing when you were constantly holding in an ocean of pain. So he waited for Bobby to come out, and nothing else.
And he did come out, eventually. Gambit didn't know how long he'd been sitting there, but it didn't matter as Bobby walked out in the moonlight. The rays bounced off of him, giving the Iceman and almost surreal look to him. A small part of Remy's mind thought 'ghostman'. He grinned to himself as Bobby approached him.
"Y' okay Bobby? What happened in dere?" Remy didn't really want to know where the Marauders where. If Bobby killed them, so be it. They weren't real, so it didn't matter.
"I'm fine. You won't have to worry about them anymore Rem. It's over."
Gambit narrowed his eyes. "What do y' mean it's over? What did y' do Bobby? Y' didn't… y' didn't… kill him… did y'?"
Bobby couldn't lie to him, nor did he try. It was the one thing that had stopped him from killing Sinister in the first place. "No, I didn't kill him. I know you feel something for him, despite everything he did to you. It doesn't make sense, but I understand."
Remy sighed in relief. Bobby didn't kill him. He wasn't sure if he was relieved because Bobby didn't kill, or if because Sinister wasn't dead. Bobby was right about feeling something for him, even though Remy knew it was crazy to feel anything. Still, some things just defied logic.
Bobby knelt down and helped Gambit to his feet. Robert shifted to human form and they made their way to the nearest pay phone. Gambit leaned heavily on Bobby, still weak from the whole ordeal. Bobby slid an arm around his waist, and heard Remy sigh softly.
"How do you feel?"
"Used. I just want t' sleep f' awhile."
Bobby grinned. "There are other relaxing things to do besides sleeping."
"Uh-huh. Get your mind out o' de gutter."
"And do what with it?"
Gambit shook his head. "Point."
The progress was slow. Gambit was worse than either of them imagined. He stumbled along the road. More than once Bobby had to catch him to keep him from falling. Finally, Gambit simply sat down.
"What's wrong Rem?" Bobby knelt down, concern in his eyes and voice.
"Dizzy. Why don't y' go ahead. I'm slowin' y' down anyway. I can wait here f' y'."
"And let some nut case from who-knows-where come and do God-knows-what? Don't think so. Come on, I know you can do this. It's just a little farther up anyway."
Remy nodded an attempted to stand. Though he himself wasn't sure if he could make it, he had to try for Bobby's sake. It was clear Bobby wouldn't leave him, and sitting there waiting wasn't a good idea. Remy got to he feet, only to lurch forward into Bobby's arms. There was a pain in his lower back, and he was limping.
Bobby looked at Remy and made a decision. He placed one arm under the Cajun's knees, the other under his shoulders, and lifted Remy into his arms. Gambit grabbed his neck at the sudden loss of contact with the ground.
"What are y' doin'?"
"What's it look like? I'm not leaving you, and we can't stay. So I'll carry you."
Remy stared at him incredulously. "Y' can't carry me all de way. Y' don't even know when we'll find a phone. Put me down, I'll walk."
"No. You can barely stand up. Besides, it faster if I just carry you. You're not that heavy anyway." In fact, Bobby was shocked and dismayed at how light Remy actually was. He hadn't really seen Gambit at the dinner table since Rogue's return. The more he thought about it, the more Bobby realized that he hadn't seen Remy eat much of anything since Rogue got back. He didn't like it, and said so.
"When's the last time you've eaten Gambit?"
The question startled him. "Huh?"
"I said when's the last time you ate? I can't remember seeing you eat since she came back. You're not starving yourself are you?"
"No. I just haven't been hungry."
Bobby snorted. "That changes when we get back, Gumbo."
"Oh? Y' planning on feeding me when we get back?"
"I plan to do a lot more than just feed you." The underline intent was obvious to anyone, including Remy.
"Big talk ice cube. Let's see if y' can put your money where your mouth is."
Luck was on their side. About fifteen minutes later they stumbled onto a run down looking motel. Bobby allowed Gambit some dignity and let him limp through the door. An elderly woman sat behind the front desk. Her white hair fell messily around her face, and Bobby placed her at around a hundred. Still, her smile was uncharacteristic as she welcomed them in.
"Hello there boys, you be needin' a room t'night?"
Bobby opened his mouth, but Remy spoke up first. "Oui, one room, two beds. An' can we use your phone? We need t' call back home an' get a lift."
"Sure thin'." She handed Remy a key that looked as old as she did. "Room 6 is free. Phone's through the right. Anythin' else?"
"Non. T'ank y' ma'am."
"Welcome. And call me Sally. You need anythin', just holler."
Bobby wanted to walk with Gambit to the room and make sure he got there without falling. But Remy told him to call the mansion and tell them what happened. He walked slowly to where the old lady had pointed. Bobby followed Remy with his eyes until he disappeared. Then he went to the phone and dialed the mansion.
Bobby recognized the voice. "That you 'Roro?"
"Robert! Are you okay? How is Remy? We've all been worried sick about you."
"I'm fine, but I think Hank should check Rem out."
"Why? What has happened?"
Bobby took a deep breath. "Sinister caught us. He was tracking for the wave thingy. Remy lost control, and he zeroed in on it. We're safe now," Bobby added hastily. "We managed to escape. I don't think Sinister will be bothering him anymore either. But I still want Hank to take a look at Remy. Sinister drugged him, with what I don't know. He's weak, but otherwise okay."
"Where are you Robert? We'll have the Blackbird come and get you both."
"Not real sure actually. See if you can get Cerebro to find us."
"That may take some time. Are you sure you and Remy are alright?"
"Yeah, we're fine. And bring some money when you get here. We're holed up in some hundred year-old motel."
"Very well." Storm paused. "Robert, please look after Remy for me."
"I promise Storm."
Storm sensed that Bobby wasn't just saying that either. She felt relieved, and left Remy to Bobby's care. She said goodbye and hung up the phone.
Bobby found Gambit halfway asleep when he walked into the room. He roused himself when he heard Bobby come in.
"They'll be here in a day or so. I asked Storm bring some cash to pay for the room."
"Hmm." Gambit sat up a bit. He and Bobby shared a glance. Bobby took a shaky gulp of air and spoke up.
Remy got off the bed and sat next to Bobby. He placed his head on Bobby's lap, his arm draping over his thigh. Bobby looked down at him with a mix of shock, amusement, and affection.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Gettin' comfortable." Remy gazed up at Bobby, all his feelings showing clear in his dark eyes. "We talk 'bout everythin' later. Right now, I just want t' be here, wit' y'."
Bobby smiled softly. "Go to sleep Rem."
Remy nodded, and laid his head back down. He fell asleep quickly, his dreams quiet for once. Bobby shook his head and pulled Remy onto the bed, his arms wrapping around Gambit's waist.
"Good night, sweet prince." He murmured, before joining Remy in
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